The last leg of our trip was packed with even more wonderful alumni visits and meetings. After leaving Beijing on Thursday, May 14, we took the high-speed train southwest towards the nationalist capitol, Nanjing. There we met Mr. Hao and his associates who showed us around the government controlled and promoted Software Development Park. Mr. Hao rolled out the red carpet for us, giving us the grand tour of the park itself, but also of their promotion center, which helped us understand their goals for the future of the project.
The Software Development Park was fascinating because it got a very different start in China than how we might have imagined a comparable project would launch in the U.S. The government spearheaded the project, sized land, and developed the office space. We got to ask questions and try to understand the reasoning behind their approach.
From Nanjing we took another high-speed train back to Shanghai. On Saturday, we met Mr. and Ms. Owen, the parents of Andrea Owen, who discussed their time working for a fledgling coffee company in western China. Mr. Owen discussed the many difficulties he faced working in China, from reporting errors to tax issues to working with local government officials. It was a fascinating to have the opportunity to talk with someone who’s so close to W&L and who has also had experience working in the western part of the country.
We then met with Julie Harris, who discussed her career path and plans for the future. This meeting was actually the most helpful one for me because Ms. Harris was able to articulate the benefits of working abroad and how it has helped her build a more global career.
We had a fantastic visit at Estee Lauder on Tuesday. We discussed a range of challenges the company faces—from the accounting issues of big conglomerates to their future strategy in China. One issue that I found particularly absorbing was the Chinese government’s testing of products, which isn’t necessarily a move to protect consumer health but rather a non-tariff measure to block new products.
Finally, we got to attend what may very well have been W&L’s first big alumni reception in China. Don Childress, the Rector of the University’s Board of Trustees, attended the event and gave an update on the capital campaign and other issues of strategic importance to the W&L community. The evening was lovely for me because I was able to engage with different alumni from various backgrounds. I only hope that one day I have the opportunity, as an alumnus, to share the same kind of valuable information about my career with future W&L students.
Getting a Glimpse Inside “Ms. Wong’s Purse”
Greetings from the North Capitol of Beijing! Since my last update, we have been very busy traveling around and talking to wonderful alumni. In the last week alone, we visited with six different alumni and have traveled to three different cities in China.
Our meetings began with Evelina Gospodinova ’06, whom we met for coffee in the lovely French Concession area of Shanghai. Evelina discussed her post-grad transition from philosophy major to freelance photographer and finally to boutique clothing store founder. It was fascinating for me to discuss potential career paths with someone other than my parents and to discover that people’s paths can be eclectic and not completely planned out.
On Monday we met with Daniel Swiggett, who’s a partner abroad with the accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers. He gave a fantastic presentation on how PWC is set up and operated in foreign counties. What really fascinated me was how PWC keeps corporate control through their subsidiaries. I never imagined that they organized new markets like franchises, allowing relatively independent firms to operate under their name and branding. We also had a good discussion about the American tax code, and found out the U.S. is one of only a few countries that charges income tax to citizens who live abroad. This led to a great discussion on the benefits and merits of this policy.
On Tuesday we visited two firms, the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai and General Motors. At AmCham Shanghai, we listened to a really interesting presentation on how China’s economics have changed over the past 30 years. The country has transformed from being an exporter to being a consumer. They used the analogy of “Ms. Wong’s Purse,” which today is a designer handbag filled to the brim with all the same amenities as “Ms. Smith’s Purse”—smart phone, car keys, cosmetics, etc. We’re beginning to realize that the Chinese are not as different as we had come to believe.
In the afternoon, we met with Richard Makov, General Counsel of GM’s China Group. Mr. Makov showed us around his office and discussed how China and shockingly, Buick cars, have become GM’s biggest market in terms of units sold. He also led a discussion on bribery laws in the U. S. and China and what he does to try to minimize GM’s risk.
There is much more I could say about this amazing week. We were thinking of everyone on campus this weekend and hope you all enjoyed Mock-Con Kickoff!
I will see you on the other side!
Greetings from The Middle Kingdom!
The class is finally in Shanghai, and it has been a crazy trip so far. I woke up in Atlanta on Friday morning at 3:00 a.m. full of excitement and doubt. This was my first time traveling outside of the Americas, so I was very excited to be challenged by a culture completely separate from my own.
After a quick, two-hour flight, I arrived in Chicago and met some of my fellow classmates and Professor Bai, which quickly calmed my nerves. There was no way I was going to last on a 14-hour flight without talking with some friends or getting some help through immigration. Surprisingly, the flight was pretty enjoyable, a consistent stream of movies and interesting scenery made it all the more fun.
We arrived exhausted in Shanghai at 2 p.m. on Saturday—12 hours ahead of Lexington. After catching a bus to Eastern China Normal University, we unpacked and received a lovely tour of the small campus, which is in the heart of Shanghai. After dinner, I finally went to sleep after being awake for 72 hours.
On Sunday, the class got organized and we received the basics required for China life—new Chinese SIM cards and paper money. For such a big city, it is amazing how few retailers will accept credit or debit cards. All transactions are completed with RMB. This requires constantly searching for ATMs that will accept American cards and give a preferable rate on the 6 to 1 conversion from Dollars to RMB.
After the basics were out of the way, my classmates and I were allowed some freedom to explore the city. We decided to go to a famous local market near People Square. After getting lost in the subway for a few hours, some helpful Australian expats guided us to the market. It was a fantastic experience, haggling and discussing items in a combination of broken Chinese and English. The experience gave me new hope that I will actually be able to communicate and travel around the city.
Today, we attended two interesting lectures and had dinner with our teachers. The morning class was a basic “crash course” in Chinese. We reviewed Pin Yin, the basic pronunciation of Chinese characters, and learned helpful phrases that should make it easier for us to communicate. Dr. Do taught an afternoon class on modern China’s economy; the discussion touched on Confucian principals, and I particularly enjoyed a discussion about Chinese and American auction markets.
Although I have only been in China for two days, so much has already happened. I look forward to the adventure ahead and will report back in the upcoming weeks. If you want updates on the group in real time, you can follow me on Facebook or on Instagram at Shipphappens12. Thanks for reading!
ACCT 372 Course Description